HEALTH

Research finds stillbirth can be inherited from father, father’s relatives

Oct 18, 2022, 5:00 PM | Updated: 5:16 pm
University of Utah researchers were part of a large study concluding that the tendency for stillbir...
The study found that while the risk can come from both the mother or the father's male relatives, the odds of a couple losing a baby to stillbirth are greater if the condition is passed down from the father's family (Canva)
(Canva)

SALT LAKE CITY — University of Utah researchers were part of a large study concluding that the tendency for stillbirth can be inherited and that the tendency is passed down through male members of a family.

Further, the study found that while the risk can come from both the mother or the father’s male relatives, the odds of a couple losing a baby to stillbirth are greater if the condition is passed down from the father’s family.

The study was published in BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology. The authors used information from the Utah Population Database, which according to the study “offers a population-based genealogical resource linked with state fetal death and birth records.”

The study examined 9,404 cases of stillbirth, along with 18,808 live births (as controls) occurring between 1978 and 2019. The researchers say they found 390 families with “an excess number of stillbirths over multiple generations.”

“We were able to evaluate multigenerational trends in fetal death as well as maternal and paternal lineages to increase our ability to detect a familial aggregation of stillbirth,” said Tsegaselassie Workalemahu, Ph.D., a faculty member in the Department of Obstetrics and  Gynecology at U of U Health.

“Not many studies have examined inherited genetic risk for stillbirth because of a lack of data. The Utah Population Database (UPDB) allows for a more rigorous evaluation than has been possible in the past.”

More research needed on non-white women, families

The researchers were careful to note that the population within the Utah Population Database is genetically similar to the U.S. population of northern European descent, and “may not be generalizable to the general U.S. population.” 

They said future studies are needed to determine trends among non-northern European ethnicities.

Stillbirth is more common among Black women reports the CDC, as well as women who smoke during pregnancy, women who are 35 years of age or older, and women who have had a previous pregnancy loss.

The CDC reports that stillbirth affects 1 in 175 births each year and that each year 21,000 babies are stillborn in the United States.

The risk increases with gestational hypertension, preeclampsia, or diabetes.

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Research finds stillbirth can be inherited from father, father’s relatives